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All Crises Open Up Opportunities to Think Afresh

Financial Times  | Sun, Dec 13, 2020

by Andy Haldane


This is part of a monthly series, “Economists Exchange”, featuring conversations between top FT commentators and leading economists about the recovery from the economic impact of coronavirus

Over the past quarter of a century, central banks have been set loose to oversee inflation and financial stability free from the strict control of elected politicians. But most chief economists of these institutions have a reputation for sticking strictly within the confines of their mandates, willing to speak about inflation, growth and employment and never veering out of lane. 

Not so, Andy Haldane. As chief economist of the Bank of England for the past six years, he more often than not likes to make a splash with grand ideas, borrowing liberally from outside the world of economics. He mixes his time at the central bank with chairing the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Council and is co-founder of Pro Bono Economics, which seeks to match professional economists possessing a social conscience with charities that have knotty problems to solve.

More than a decade ago, Mr Haldane was urging financial risk managers to learn lessons from epidemiology in a bid to quell the global financial crisis. Recently, the fable Chicken Licken was on his mind as he berated the British public for “catastrophising” during the coronavirus crisis, slowing the UK’s economic recovery. 

In this late November interview with the FT’s economics editor Chris Giles, he expounds on the duty of public policymakers to tell it straight when it comes to Covid-19, but says he still believes there is an excessively “gloomy and doomy” narrative in the air. With this in mind, he says another important duty of those in public life is to point to a way ahead, “a plan for what might be done to create jobs, to create growth, to build business, to build skills”.

His hope is that efforts to build out of the crisis can be self-fulfilling, encouraging people to start spending and investing to effect change.

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